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tv   KPIX 5 News at 11pm  CBS  March 24, 2013 11:00pm-11:30pm PDT

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mile from the mainland. it sounds ugly but to penallologists it was beautiful and escape proof. they saw the island as a strategic key to controlling the waterways of northern california. but even from the beginning alcatraz was part prison. when the first troops arrived in 1859 military convicts were among them. two years later, alcatraz was designated the official prison for the department of the pacific. during the civil war the army transformed the rock into the most heavily armed fortress west of the mississippi. but the giant cannons never fired a shot in anger. the attack never happened and by war's end alcatraz was obsolete as a fort but for the
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prisoners it was anything but negative. >> this room was converted into a solitary confinement section. there were nine solitary confinement cells in this little space. vertical. the men would have to stand up inside these cells. i was just enough room for their knees to hit the door. >> reporter: in 1933 the war department turned alcatraz over to the federal bureau of prisons. it would become the toughest prison in the federal system gaining instant notoriety when its new tenants included some of the most famous and powerful gangsters in the country. >> machine gun kelly just sentenced to life imprisonment will be among the first tenants in that rocky island.
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alcatraz is ready. >> reporter: the prohibition era of the 1920s produced a collection of gangsters that were as renowned and colorful as they were dangerous. their imprisonment in alcatraz enhanced its reputation. alcatraz was escape proof. a lot of the perception came from the movies that had little to do with the island prison. cameras not everyone movie cameras were ever allowed on alcatraz. the number of movies was impressive. but the life they were to lead on this island reflected the fact that they were just common criminals with just a measure of fame. >> this is d block the isolation wing in alcatraz. this was home to the most known
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prisoners on alcatraz. >> let's say you were a prisoner. let's say you stepped on my toes i'm going to put you away. i'm going to waste you. i'm not going to give you a punch, i'm going to end you. it's not going to end in a simple fight, it's going to end in death. >> reporter: railcars carried the shackled prisoners to the prison dock then they were marched solemnly in silence to what must have been the most forbidding sight they had ever seen. prisoners stayed in their cells 23 hours a day, they were allowed out for three 20 minute meals. this were not allowed books, radios or newspapers. their mail was heavily censored. five by 9-foot cells became the sum of their existence. time weighed heavy in this bleak damp place they called the rock. alcatraz was all about punishment, not rehabilitation. alcatraz was maximum security with minimum privileges.
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still to come, the history books show two escape attempts. the first led to a bloody shoot out. the second escape ended in mystery. a mystery that remains unsolved to this day. l charge. cool. and heat. from your phone. fact: leaf never needs gas. ever. good for the world. built in america. now, leaf's an easier choice than ever. ♪ ♪ shop at ♪ ♪
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it's been said that desperate men will do desperate things in the 1940s alcatraz prison was filled with desperate man. some hatched a plot to escape and it led to the bloodiest two days in alcatraz history. >> reporter: when alcatraz
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became a federal history it carried a chilly mandate. the rock was to be a place of punishment. no more, no less. >> we look forward to great things from the use of alcatraz prison. >> mr. attorney general, alcatraz is ready. >> reporter: the inmates sent here were the worse of the worse. too dangerous and encorrigible to get along in other prisons. in alcatraz officials simply locked them up. there was no pretense of rehabilitation, isolation was the key. after the end of the day the inmates would climb these stairs and pass through a metal detector. you would have to wonder if they didn't look over their shoulders and look at the city that would illude them for years. once they passed these gates, they were entering one of the most isolated places on earth. even the tightest security can
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be overcome by desperate man who feel they have little or nothing to lose. that's what happened back in alcatraz in 1946. the result was the deadliest escape attempt. bernard coy and brechart and hubbard were involved in a gunfight. the three inmates took on the prison guards, the united states marines and u.s. coast guard. the battle began right after lunch here at the halls of the mess hall. after lunch clean up they overpowered a guard and took his keys. they were able to open most but not all of the cells. their main objective was to get to the gun gallery which cory managed to do by climbing a mesh wall to the top. once there he used a steel bar to spread the bars just enough to slip through.
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once in the gallery, coy overpowered the guard there. the unmanageable was now fact. the prisoners had guns. >> it was a gorrie affair. when you consider they had as many as six men in one cell, a cell being five feet by 9 feet and you had the kind of characters outside of the cell who had no morals whatsoever, exchanged gunfire with them. >> reporter: inside the cell block the two inmates had overpowered 10 guards. in san francisco thousands of people watched the fighting on
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alcatraz from the safety of the city's hills. >> scene of the bloody battle of alcatraz. the federal penal island surrounded by san francisco bay, here for nearly 40 hours of murderous mutiny, the lighthouse looks down at the setting for the drama of violence and sudden death. >> the pitch battle left 15 guards wounded and two dead. the three inmate ring leaders of the escaped attempt were found dead shot to death in a utility corridor in cell block c. in a gruesome postmortum, prison officials allowed the photographing of the fingerprinting of the men. the battle of alcatraz was
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over. when we come back on a second look -- >> three bank robbers serving long terms scratched their ways through grills, climbed a pipe and disappeared from the forbidden rock in san francisco bay. it appears to be the first successful escape in the history of the prison. the escape triggered the biggest man hunt in san francisco history as agents of the fbi, sheriff deputy and local police joined in the search. whatever their fate the three convicts have apparently accomplished a feet that many have tried with no success. >> did they survive the frigid waters of san francisco bay and disappear as three men? the mystery of the only inmates who ever escaped from alcatraz.
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to whiten more than 3 shades use the whole whitening line from colgate optic white. one of the most famous prison escapes in american history involved three men two swam their way to freedom or did they? the 1973 disappearance of
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three men from alcatraz have remained a mystery to this day. clint eastwood even made a movie about it. what is clear is the men made their way out of the prison and off of the island. the question is whether they survived the frigid waters of the bay. >> reporter: 1.5 million visitors a year take a boat ride to take a tour of the notorious alcatraz penitentiary. there's one story that everyone loves hearing the tale of the escape. though the island was riddled with holes and places to hide it was considered escape proof. large parts of the island are still closed to tourists including the under ground parts. naomi grits started our understood ground tour.
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through the maze of under ground tunnels, we searched for a hole that prisoners said would take them right to the ocean. >> if anyone ever found this they could have shimmied out through this. >> and escaped. >> three men clarence anglin his brother and morris disappeared from the prison and were never seen again. did they really get away? darwin coon thinks so. coon is a former inmate who says he helped the three escapees he would have joined them but escape wasn't possible from his cell. >> they're in south america some place i would imagine. one of these days when they get to their death bed they're
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going to holler here i am and then you will know they made it. >> reporter: iron bars everywhere, guard towers at every tournament alcatraz was considered escape proof and it kept that reputation for a long time. the federal parks department which runs the island now has restored the cells of the three men who escaped complete with the dummies they used to fool guards. with tools they made themselves including an electric drill. i asked ranger rich wheaterman how they could dig without
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making a sound. he explained that the men made the hole on the nights that the prison orchestra practiced. they would meet in this corridor behind the wall. >> these were strong young guys. they could do this kind of climbing. >> they were in their late 30s and early 40s they were in good shape physically. they built a life raft out of 140 rain hoods they smuggled in from the industries area. >> reporter: they were able to get to the ceilings of the cell blocks and over time cut a hole in the ceiling. the three convicts escaped through the holes one final time. >> they climbed plumbing through an air ventilation shaft. ran to the waters edge and disappeared. >> reporter: bill long was the prison guard who discovered the
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three men were missing during a head count on the morning of june 11, 1962. >> where did they go? just thinking the first reaction was shock. i was shocked to find it that these guys weren't there. >> reporter: those fake heads did the job fooling everyone until the last minute. >> i found the tools under the bed on the floor. >> reporter: in 1992 ktvu talked to thomas kent who was also an inmate at the time. he said the plan was for the escapees to paddle their makeshift raft to tiburon. >> it was a small community. tiburon was very small. and they had a good chance not being seen. the main thing the whole thing was not being seen. the whole thing was destroying the evidence. >> reporter: did morris and the anglin brothers get to tiburon, destroy the evidence, travel to
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south america as they planned and start new lives? there's no evidence that they didn't. and that's enough mystery to keep a good story alive for 45 years. >> police storm the swift waters of san francisco bay through which they would have had to swim or go by raft to shore to near by island. and an interview reveals more about life on the rock.
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a reunion was held at alcatraz island for those who were prisoners and workers on the island. >> reporter: for those who chose this day for a tour their timing -- >> this is the 76th anniversary of the opening of alcatraz. >> reporter: was great.
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at his desk in the main cell block was 75-year-old jim albright who still fits into his original uniform. >> i stayed here till 63 when they closed and i was the last guard out. >> reporter: the national parks service called all bright and other officers inmates and residents the allumni of alcatraz a group which grows smaller with every passing year. >> bill long passed away a couple of weeks ago. >> the average age is 80 years or better so slowly we're losing all the allumni. >> when it was military it was just perfect. now i'm looking at all the paint peeling off the walls and i'm thinking oh good grief. >> reporter: 93-year-old betty lou says alcatraz was pristine when she moved here in 1929 with her army family. this is the first time she's
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returned since leaving at age 17. >> i am getting old now and i just thought it would be nice. >> i'm coming from lovings worth where i tried to escape. >> reporter: lucas says he felt trepidation returning to alcatraz on this anniversary. today he shared his story with fascinated tourists. >> i'm not used to talking in front of people. >> reporter: but talking is what the park service hopes these allumni will do. former guard albright put his story to paper. he had the same advise for lucas. >> i told him you ought to write a book because once you're gone all the memories are gone. >> reporter: three years ago federal officials announced an expansion of the alcatraz tour. rob roth took a look and met a man who remembered the rock as a living hell. >> it stands as a monument to
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misery for the prisoners who misbehaved their way here to alcatraz. darwin coon did hard time here. >> this was my cell. >> reporter: after robbing a series of banks and escaping from another prison. >> a living hell. b block over there was total misery. so many inmates here needed to be in a mental institution rather than a prison. so you have to be aware of who was around you at all times. guys would go off at any time and they would hurt you. >> reporter: the living hell that was alcatraz is still endlessly fascinating atracking more than 1 million visitors a year. and today the parks service unveiled the upgrade and changes it's been working on. some of the homemade shims to stab other prisoners or guards are now on display.
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and saps that guards carried despite not allowed to are also on display. they've been furnished to look the way they looked. >> it goes down to the minutia. it looks like an inmate just left that cell that very day. >> reporter: there's a new audio recording first person accounts the last one outsold the beatles old pep sergeant pepper's album. patrick mahoney was a guard here from 1956 until the day alcatraz closed as a prison in 1963. >> every day i went home my wife said what happened today and there was also some funny saying it was a comic, some
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crazy thing happened. >> reporter: andy recalls his last ferry ride out. >> going over toward berkeley we were heading back east. we couldn't even look over here we felt so terrible. i really enjoyed the rock. >> they didn't hurt our feelings one bit when they closed it up, i'll tell you. >> and that's it for this week's second look. i'm frank somerville. we'll see you again next week.
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